Knjaževac Rural Tourism

Municipality Knjaževac is located in East Serbia, close to Bulgarian border, 280 km southeast of Belgrade via highway E-75, 60 km away from Niš and 150 km from Sofia. Knjazevac Municipality and its surroundings are culturally extremely interesting and encircled by breathtaking crystal clear rivers streams, and magic mountains, of which the highest is Stara Planina Mountain with Midzor Peak – 2169 meters, one of the highest peaks of Serbia. Knjaževac is a region in East Serbia of indescribable beauty, an amalgamation of various possibilities for active vacations, combined with colorful ethno motifs and well preserved tradition of the Classical and Roman archaeological sites and monuments that all make tempting destination for fulfilled vacations. The region around Knjaževac is an ethnographic treasure-chest with its rich tradition of religious beliefs and well-preserved customs linked to ancient popular religion. A detailed study of the customs of the area of Knjazevac gives us an insight into several layers of old Slav and old Balkan religion and the culture imposed later by the Christian tradition. For its bridges the Knjazevac town itself is called the “little Venice”.

The Timok Krajina is known as the wine area which is divided into 2 parts – the northern called the Krajina wine region and the southern known as Knjazevacki wine region. There are two wine areas recognized in the Beli Timok River area – the Vrbnica wine region and the Dzervin wine region. The Vrbnica wine region includes the middle course of the Beli Timok River, while the Dzervin wine region is located in the upper course of the Beli Timok River i.e. theSvrljig and Trgoviski Timok river on the slopes of the Ozren, Svrljiske planine Mountains and the Stara Planina Mountain. Nowadays, wine is inseparable from the Knjaževac region’s history and tradition. Viticulture and wine making in Knjaževac vineyards date back to the Roman times.

Budžak is the name of the area in East Serbia which contains the foot of highest peaks of Stara Planina Mountain and belongs to Knjaževac Municipality, but still today bears the name which in Turkish means crook, due to its remote location. Trgoviški Timok or the Strma reka River appears on the western slopes of Stara Planina Mountain, beneath its highest peak of Midžor – 2169 m, which is the highest point in Serbia, less than 1 km from the border with Bulgaria. Strma reka River gets Trgoviški Timok name from the Kalna village, along the Trgovište village in Knjaževac Municipality, to join further the Svrljiški Timok River, creating together the Beli Timok River. The mountainous Budžak area is actually triangular space between Knjaževac and Serbian-Bulgarian border and villages of Pirot, where life was flourishing since the ancient times and during the mining of Romans up to the end of the 19th century and especially til the seventies of the 20th century, when this ultimately beautiful area also known for cattle breeders – declined. There is an assumption and archaeological finds that people had lived in the Budžak area already during the bronze age (1400-800 years BC). Turbulent historical, cultural and economic factors brought changes to the demographic picture of this area. From the end of the 19th century (1879) till the beginning of the 21st century, the Budzak population decreased for more than 3 times and the number of members per household for 5 times, by decline of family cooperative and large migrations of population. Faced with harsh conditions of mountain life and lack of perspective, the population intensively emigrated to the lowland areas around the Beli Timok river and to the surrounding towns. In the Budžak area, few settlements have the average population younger than 60 years what is nowadays one of the oldest populated areas in East Serbia featuring population density of 7 inhabitants on 1 sq km. Judging by the long-term trend of birthrate decrease and the accelerated aging of the population from this area, the question has to be asked: in 30-50 years in Stara Planina Mountain in the Budžak area, would there be human life at all, or there would remain historical monuments as the evidence that generations and generations of people had lived there and had their culture and customs.

The whole area from Stara Planina Mountain in the north, to the Belasica Mountain in the south – in present Macedonia, and from the Sicevo Gorge in the west up to the place called the Pobit kamen on the east, behind Sofia, is unique and known as the Šopluk area, after Šopi population – Slovenized indigenous autochtonous population of the Wallachian – Vlach origin, who mingled with new-settlers. Torlak is the part of the Šopluk region and its population of Torlaks /pl. Torlaci/ differ from their neighbors and are highly recognized in regard with the other ethic groups of the Shopluk area. Some researchers include the area of Vidin and Belogradchik and Berkovitza into the Shopluk – Shop area, and determine the name of Torlak as the synonymy for Šopluk “in narrower form”. Many centuries Torlaks were known not only in the near area which they populated, but also in Tzarigrad – Carigrad /nowadays Istanbul/ and farthermost settlements of the Vlaska region, and everywhere where pechalbars worked – craftsmen and seasonal workers…. Pirot was the center of Torlak population, while from the first half of the 19th century it was the largest settlement of Torlaks…. During winters the Torlak population used to get married, and was making plans for the further pechalba engagement….

The tradition defines the Shopi people as very ancient peoples. One legend has it that when God was creating the wold, he created a single Shop on the first day and the second Sop on the second day and furthur in succession til the sixth day when the sixth Shop was created. Being tired, God decided to rest and had made a pattern for creation of all the other people.  Besides this legend, there is traditional belief that if God wishes to see how people live on the earth, he comes to the Vidlich peak of the Balkan Mountain – Stara Planina Mountain above Zabrdje area near Caribrod.
Shopi or Shopovi are ancient people of the Helm and descendants of Stribals – Greek Tribals whom Kedrin counts into Serbs and Halkohondil defines them the Illyric Serbs who are the oldest people in the world. Shopi people are blood relatives of the Median Rascians, but  etymologically considered from the Thracian Sapeyi people, which is the name for an Aegean tribe which is only the form of the Rascian and ancient name of Sapai, today known under the name of Shopi or Shopovi which semantically comes from the corrupted form of So/r/bi, Sa/r/bi or Se/r/bi. Under this name in the Baltics exists the Serbian tribe of Sabi, while in the East in the Five-rivers area there are the Serbian Sobi people along which the whole India got its name of Sofir /Sobir as is recorded in the Holy Scripture.

Borders of the Shopluk /area where Shopi live/ are not clearly determined, but this name designates the common and pretty large area of predominantly mountainous character which spreads in the south from Atos in Greece along Plackovica and Males Mountains and further from the Bela Palanka-Vlasina-Pcinja spaces in the west to the Isker, Dupnitsa and Struma, including the area of Sofia in the east, and further in the north along the mountainous range of the Balkan Mountain – Stara Planina Mountain to the South Carpathians and further to the north ending with the Lusiatian Serbs. The Shopluk is predominantly mountainous area in the central part of the Balkans stretching across Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia over 12.000 km2 of land and encompassing the following parts that stand out: Kraiste /around the towns of Custendil,Bosilgrad and Radomir/, Maleševo /southeast of the town of Osogovo/, Slaviste and Pijanac /near the Pčinja river/, Vlasina /around Vlasina lake and the town of Crna Trava/, Grahovo /around the town of Breznik and Pernik/, Bure /west of the town Trn/, Znepolje /south and east of Trn/, Luznica /around the town of Babusnica and Ljuborađa/, Torlak /surroundings of the town of Pirot and Dimitrovgrad/, Zagorje /Stara Planina’seast side/, Zaglavak /southeast of of the town Knjaževac/, Zaplanje /around the town ofGadžin Han/, Budžak /around the town of Kalna/, Sophia field and Sophia valley….

In the Serbian part of the Shopluk, likewise in the Bulgarian and the Macedonian Shopluk parts, local population speak the Prizren-Timok or the Torlak dialect of the Serbian language.

Budzak by Dario Bozic  

‘Budžak is the old Serb word used to designate a remote and isolated area. Being ignorant, lectures of the official school and the Old Serbian linguistics wrongly inform us that it is the Turkish word. In the north of the Stara Planina Mountain, in the Knjaževac region, there is the area called Budžak. It is located beneath the highest peaks – the Midžor, Babin zub, Orlov kamen, Petrova čuka and Jalovik. We can only imagine how old is this word, older than the other, being the toponym of the Stara Planina Mountain ?

The historian Strabo of Antiquity writes on the Budžak in the “Getae desert” below the Carpathians, in the lower course of the Danube river. It is clear that this toponym exists more than thousand years, before the Turkish invasion from the Asia Minor, if the place of the Turkish appearance is there, as the official history claims ?

Getae expell the Skifes from the Budzak area during the time of Philip of Macedon, and take over the rule of this territory. Then we find this toponym during the reign of Alexander successors, as was Liximah, on which Strabo records : In Budzak, the tsar of Getae Drohimet captured Lisimah alive, who started the campaign against him. Notifying Lisimah on their and the tribal poverty, but also stressing their independence, he advised him not to fight against such tribes, but to establish friendly connections with them. After those words, the tsar organized a festive party for the prisoner, and released him from the captivity, and made agreement on friendship.

In the 1. century BC the records on Getae and Geto-Dacians vanish, so that later appear glorified Gots who subdued Romans and after several centuries this people also vanish as a drop of water in the sun. Strange, isn t it? Аnd there are numerous evidences that the Gots spoke the same language as the Illyrians, Serbs, Dardanians… Those evidences are not accidentally excluded from the scientific-official history, as were numerous gospels ommited from the Bible. And the Homeland of those peoples is the same one of the White Serbs who settled here from the Budzak, Bukovina and the surrounding areas….  There still there are songs about the Serbs, the most beautiful, the most courageous, and the most skillful guys, with the dance kolo danced, as in the center of Sumadija’.

‘Dardanians – Dardanics – Dardanos were called Troiana prosopia by Solin which used to settle down around the Danube River and Vidin and Orahovac, on the Skitula River in Real Serbia and all along the former Dardania or the southern and the southeastern provinces of the Real Serbia. Their towns were Rashka on the Rashka River which joins the Maritza River, Stip, Samokov, Skopje, Krusevo or Stari Dol, Radovic, Prilep, Bitol, Kostur and so on from its former living areas around the present Nis. The smaller part of this Serb tribe lives in so-called present Albania as the Serbs in mentioned towns and their surroundings’. Novica R. Grujic